Yesterday, the NFL announced that they will be making 24 NFL officials full-time employees. This is a huge deal because before this point the officials in the NFL were hired as part time workers.
For years, hardcore NFL fans resented this fact because the NFL makes billions but can’t even make the people who police the game on the field the money they deserve. NFL fans realize that being an official in the NFL is tougher than any other sport because of all the moving parts from the offensive line, to the quarterback, to the outside. The “full-time” title is well earned and well deserved.
However, in this we want to look at the five times we wish NFL officials were paid full-time. These moments over time have actually pushed things more into the direction of having better referees because of just how bad the calls were.
You could consider these “Show me the Money,” moments because it showed just how valuable the zebras are. Basing things off the “Show me the money” scale, we will evaluate the top five moments that prove this move should have happened a long time ago.
For these moves to count they have to be after the invention of replay, comparing things like the Immaculate Reception and the Mike Renfro catch, to today’s calls, simply isn’t fair.
Calvin Johnson’s Non-TD catch
This play opened up an entire can of worms for receivers and the NFL from the moment it was made. Back in 2010, the Lions were down 19-14 to the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left in the game driving in Chicago territory. What happens next is an amazing play by Calvin Johnson to haul in a touchdown and seemingly give the Lions a huge come from behind victory. Except, they ruled it not a catch because as Johnson appeared to rise to his feet and celebrate the ball hit the ground with Johnson releasing it.
“Show Me the Money” Rating: 7.5
It would be higher if the game was a playoff game. It also would be higher if it happened to a different franchise. Yes it was Calvin Johnson who was the best player in the league for a while and that’s why it had the wide ranging impact it did. But could you imagine if it was a team in the spotlight that it happened to? Especially in the playoffs? Oh and imagine if that player wasn’t Calvin Johnson but maybe a top five wide out too.
Football fans would have to then go through a whole summer with that fan base yelling IT WAS A RECEPTION or something like that. Either way, this gets points mainly because it actually changed the way catches were viewed amazingly.
Jay Cutler Saved by the Whistle
Down 38-31 with a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos were driving down the field against the San Diego Chargers. They had gotten all the way to the one-yard line when quarterback Jay Cutler rolled out for a pass and the ball simply slips out of his hands.
However, referee Ed Hochuli had ruled the play dead. This means that even though the Chargers had secured the fumble because it was called an incomplete pass the rest of the play didn’t matter. The Broncos got to keep the ball, went for two after scoring a touchdown and ended up winning the game 39-38.
“Show Me the Money” Rating: 8.0
Again, not a playoff game or one on national TV so it wasn’t like everyone got to say the egregious mistake live which definitely impacts things. But the Broncos and Chargers were both decent teams in 2008 when this took place.
Still, there were two factors which push this over the Calvin Johnson rule. First off, the rule actually slowly became changed over time because of this play. You would never see this happen now because refs let it play on and don’t blow it dead knowing they could always go back and review.
Secondly, the referee was actually a well-known person in his own right. If most fans had to name one NFL official, it would be Ed Hochuli because he’s one of the best in the business and of course…GAINS. Regardless, the fact that he could make such a crucial mistakes helps more for the case that referees should have been full time employees.
Dez Bryant’s Catch That Wasn’t
In 2015, the Cowboys and Packers met at Lambeau field for a divisional round playoff game. It was a great back-and-forth contest with the Packers leading 26-21. The Cowboys had a fourth-and-short on the Packers side of the field with less than five minutes to go in the game. They were controlling the pace with the run for the majority of the game but the Cowboys decided to go for broke and throw a bomb. Tony Romo seemed to connect with wide receiver Dez Bryant for a touchdown that would have given the Cowboys the lead.
But after further review, the officials said that Bryant didn’t complete possession of the catch. To most people watching, including the announcers, it appeared that he had complete control and was just stretching the ball out for the touchdown.
“Show Me the Money” Rating: 9.5
Man there was simply too much to ignore here. Two of the most prominent franchises in NFL history in the Cowboys and the Packers were facing off in the most historic stadium in the league during the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant all played crucial roles and were all superstars at the time.
Everyone was watching and they made a call that even the biggest Cowboys haters couldn’t agree with. Although there is some irony to the Cowboy fans blaming the officials after one could argue, strongly, that just the week before they guided the Cowboys to a win over the Detroit Lions.
Still, the entire offseason was hounded with chants of “IT WAS A CATCH” by Cowboys fans across the country. As funny as it was that it happened to the Cowboys, yes, it was a catch.
The Tuck Rule
The Patriots and Raiders were playing in a divisional round playoff game at snowy Gillette Stadium. The Raiders were winning the game 13-10 in the fourth quarter and it seemed like Charles Woodson had won the Raiders the game by stripping quarterback Tom Brady.
However, as the officials went back to review the call, they determined that Brady was in the motion of throwing because he didn’t bring the ball all the way back to his body and reset to throw again. With the Patriots regaining possession of the ball, they went down the field where Adam Vinatieri hit the game tying field goal then the game winning one in overtime.
“Show Me the Money” Rating: 10
Now this one’s impact on NFL history goes down more than any other call made in the last twenty years and it isn’t all that close.
Keep in mind that when they happened, the Patriots weren’t the Patriots yet and Tom Brady wasn’t headed for all time greatness. It is acceptable to wonder what would have happened if they would have lost this game.
Clearly, they would have still been champions in my book but how long would it have taken to finally break through. On the other end of things, this effectively ended Raider’s coach Jon Gruden’s tenure in Oakland because he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next year. Also, who knows the Rams might have even been two time champions if not for this call.
In the end, however, people miss this one simple fact. The call was actually right. Now don’t go all “spirit of the rules” on me because at the end of the day the refs are supposed to know the rulebook inside and out, even if they weren’t properly compensated for it. Still, they could use this as an example to get paid because reffing an NFL actually comes down to a lot of opinion.
Pass Interference, Holding, catches, even fumbles are all to some degree based on the thoughts of one person. So yes, even when officials are right, they’re wrong.
The Fail Mary
In 2012, the Packers and Seahawks met for a game in Century Link Field. The Seahawks were down by five points and there was no time left on the clock. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had no option but to throw a Hail Mary in the hopes that they could win. As the ball was thrown into the endzone, there was a fight for it from Packers corner M.D. Jennings and Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. They wrestled with the ball in the endzone for a few moments before the officials came over and ruled that it was… a touch-inter-down-ception.
Yes, they both looked at each other and ruled two different things on the field as Jon Gruden lamented that it should have been an interception. To most watching, it appeared like a pick from Jennings as well because he had more control of the ball so the ruling of simultaneous control shouldn’t have applied.
“Show Me the Money” Rating: 10,000,000
So the time for this to happen couldn’t have been better for NFL officials. Back in 2012, there was an official’s lockout because they wanted more money and benefits.
This led the NFL to believe that they could just trot in referees who were used to Division III football. The games in the first three weeks were badly officiated because, again, they don’t have an easy job but it was swept under the rug. However, this game was on Monday Night Football with two teams that had enough star power that people were going to tune in and watch. Viewers watched in horror as the replacement refs lost the Packers the game.
Unlike any of the other calls, this one officially ended the game and there was no way for the Packers to come back from it. The replacement refs time in the league truly did give everyone an appreciation for our own referees and the time and effort that they put in every day. Now they are rightfully full-time and it should have happened a long time ago.